Chartered in 1947, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is the world’s largest and foremost organization for public relations professionals. PRSA is responsible for representing, educating, setting standards of excellence, and upholding principles of ethics for its members and, in principle, the $4 billion U.S. public relations profession.
With the vision to unify, strengthen and advance the public relations profession, PRSA helps to build value and demand for, and global understanding of, public relations.
PRSA also helps to advance public relations professionals by offering professional development opportunities through continuing education programs, information exchange forums, and research projects conducted on the national and local levels.
To qualify for membership in PRSA, individuals must devote a substantial portion of their time (at least 50 percent) to the paid professional practice of public relations or to the teaching or administration of a public relations curriculum in an accredited college or university. Individuals also must agree to abide by the PRSA Member Code of Ethics.
Currently, there are more than 22,000 PRSA members, including professionals from public relations agencies, corporations, government, health care institutions, military, professional services firms, associations, nonprofit organizations, and academia.
Ethics and Professional Standards — Recognizing that the level of public trust sought by its members requires a special obligation to operate ethically, PRSA wrote its first code of ethics in 1950. Today, ethical practice is the most important obligation of PRSA members.
The PRSA Code of Ethics is a guide for PRSA members as they carry out their professional responsibilities. The intent is to provide a code that inspires ethical behavior, rather than emphasizes punishment for unethical conduct. While the code is voluntary, members must pledge to uphold code principles each time they renew their annual membership. Additionally, the PRSA Board of Directors retains the right to bar from membership or expel from the Society any individual who has been or is sanctioned by a government agency or convicted in a court of law of an action that is in violation of this code.
Advocacy — To help advance the public relations profession, PRSA’s advocacy efforts demonstrate the leadership role of practitioners within the profession by sounding a clear, consistent PRSA voice on important global issues of our time.
PRSA leadership has taken public positions on the use of front groups, paid political spokespersons, anonymous Internet postings and other communications ethics issues, including those raised by the Federal Communications Commission's recent guidelines concerning "blogola."
The Business Case for Public Relations (TM) — The Business Case for Public RelationsTM is an industry advocacy campaign intended to foster more accurate and better-informed perceptions of the value and role of public relations in the diverse organizations it serves. The goal is to drive industry recognition and growth by helping professionals in the field educate key audiences about public relations' roles, outcomes and strategic value, while enhancing its reputation.
Over time, this initiative will come to include research, practical tools, influencer and media outreach, and targeted career development opportunities. It also will celebrate the positive influence our industry has had in the service of the public good.
Professional Development — Each year, PRSA offers its members hundreds of professional development seminars, webinars and teleseminars, many of which are free. Programming is organized into several categories, including communications planning and evaluation, management and leadership, media relations, trust and reputation, techniques and tactics, and technology and trends.
PRSA also is an advocate of certification for public relations professionals. The Society offers a Study Guide for the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations through the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB), as well as an online demonstration of the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations, which gives prospective candidates the experience of sitting for the computer-based examination.
Diversity — Having begun its first diversity outreach more than 20 years ago, PRSA continues to embrace and support members of diverse races, ages, genders, sexual orientation and ethnicities so that its membership can continue to grow and more closely reflect the demographics of the communities it serves.
Each year, PRSA’s National Diversity Committee presents up to four Diversity Awards to local Society Chapters that embody and advance key diversity values. PRSA also maintains a Diversity Toolkit containing documents and materials to help Chapters, Districts and Sections develop diversity within their organizations and sponsor multicultural communications seminars.
The business and affairs of PRSA are managed and controlled by a board of directors consisting of four officers and 12 directors, all elected by the National PRSA Assembly at its annual meeting, and the immediate past chair. The board of directors is supported by Society staff members, as well as committees and task forces necessary to assist in the conduct of Society affairs.
Under its national structure, PRSA has 110 Chapters across the country that provide valuable connections to local business and public relations communities. Often, Chapters sponsor their own events, such as professional development programs, membership meetings and awards programs.
PRSA Chapters are organized into 10 Districts nationwide. Many Districts host annual conferences that provide valuable professional development and networking opportunities.
PRSA also maintains micro-communities formed around specific interests, industry experience, practice areas and organizational settings, including 14 Professional Interest Sections and the College of Fellows. With forums to increase professional knowledge and effectiveness, these communities provide important contacts and precisely relevant learning opportunities.
The PRSA Foundation, established in 1990, is a philanthropic patron of the public relations profession. It is committed to the development of programs to advance public relations research, education and scholarships, while encouraging contributions from those who stand to benefit from the profession’s advancement.
The PRSA College of Fellows honors seasoned practitioners and educators who have made significant contributions to the public relations profession. Criteria for admission to the College of Fellows includes: Accredited PRSA membership, 20 years experience practicing or teaching public relations, demonstrated exceptional capability as a practitioner or educator, personal and professional qualities that serve as a role model for other practitioners, and unusual and exceptional contributions to the field of public relations.
More than 10,000 students are members of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), which boasts more than 300 Chapters at colleges and universities in the United States and abroad.
The PRSA International Conference is widely considered to be the world’s foremost event for public relations professionals. The event, which annually draws 2,000-3,000 of the best and brightest professional communicators from around the world, offers hundreds of professional development sessions led by experts in a variety of public relations disciplines.
PRSA also sponsors several annual Professional Interest Section conferences.
PRSA recognizes excellence in public relations through a variety of awards programs.
PRSA’s Silver Anvil Award represents the pinnacle of achievement and the highest standards of performance in the public relations profession. Symbolizing the forging of public opinion, the Silver Anvil is annually awarded to organizations which have successfully addressed a contemporary issue with exemplary professional skill, creativity and resourcefulness. Winning programs must incorporate sound research, planning, execution and evaluation.
Other PRSA awards include:
PRSA publications provide PRSA members and the public relations community at large with timely sources of what’s new and what’s news in public relations. They include:
Kathy Barbour, APR, 2015 Chair
Mark W. McClennan, APR, 2015 Chair-Elect
Joseph E. Cohen, APR, Immediate Past Chair
Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., CAE, CEO
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